Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves who founded Black History Month

Francis Akhalbey April 03, 2019
Carter G. Woodson -- Photo Credit: ASALH

Widely regarded as the “father of black history” Carter G. Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia. The author, historian, journalist and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History was also one of the first individuals to study African-American history.

Born to a poor family, Woodson could not attend high school due to financial reasons. When he finally had the chance at the age of twenty in 1895, he managed to graduate with a diploma from Douglass High School in less than two years. Woodson then took up teaching and subsequently furthered his education at the Berea College in Kentucky as well as the University of Chicago earning undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

In 1912, Woodson received his PhD from Harvard University making history as the second African-American after W.E.B. Du Bois to achieve such a feat at the prestigious university.

On February 1, 1926, Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed the second week of February to be Negro History Week. The range of days was selected due to the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass on February 12th and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 14th. The birthdays of both figures were celebrated since the 1800s.

Not widely accepted initially, Negro History Week was celebrated in North Carolina, Delaware, West Virginia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The formation of the holiday was because of the need of preserving and passing on African-American history within society as a whole.

By 1929, The Journal of Negro History reported that employees with the State Department of Educations of every state with a substantial amount of Black residents had spread the word about NHW.

In 1970, due to the Black United students and Black educators at Kent State University, the month of February marked the first celebration of Black History Month at the institution.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford publicly highlighted Black History Month and encouraged Americans to recognize and study the often overlooked accomplishments of Black Americans.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: May 7, 2020


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